Is a Destination Wedding Right for You?

Destination weddings in the Caribbean have become very fashionable over the years. Is it the right fit for you? Let’s have a look at some pros and cons.

Pros:

  1. It is an exotic start your life together. Every wedding is a memorable event but to have your wedding in an exotic location, different from anything available at home, can be a key factor in your decision. Rustling palm trees, white sandy beach and Caribbean blue waters can add so much to your personal memories of the big day.
  2. Cost is usually less. Weddings at home can cost up to $25,000 and more. A destination wedding can be 1/10th of that cost!
  3. The deep involvement in planning is left in the hands of professionals at the resort, in consultation with you. Colour-theme choices? Beach, gazebo or garden location? Convention Hall or beach front reception location? Spa and hair appointment needed – with appointments booked well in advance? They usually are available. Often, any design that you can see on the internet can be made available at the resort, especially a fine resort.
  4. Important friends and family are there with you. In an at-home wedding, often guests are invited based on connection to other family members. Usually with a destination wedding, because of travel costs involved, only those who are close to you will plan to attend.
  5. If wedding plans are announced early enough (usually a year in advance, to ensure that an appropriate wedding date and time is available), friends and families can plan their vacation time around the wedding, thus not incurring additional expense – it is a wedding trip and a vacation!
  6. If guests have to travel some distance to attend an at-home wedding, then that cost is absorbed into the cost of their travel south.
  7. Both sides of the family get to spend an entire week getting to know one another, not one afternoon and an evening, thus creating opportunities for bonding between families.
  8. You have a wonderful, memorable wedding and you have a honeymoon built in. Many couples choose to stay an extra week in destination and even experience a different resort – perhaps an adult-only resort for the second week. Airfare is already paid for so the second week is often only half of the total cost of the first week.

Some resorts, like Karisma (El Dorado and Azul resorts) in Riviera Maya and Jamaica, offer special prices and times for wedding couples to come down, view the property(ies) and attend presentations informing them about wedding options. AS these offers change, check with your agent for updated information.

Cons:

  1. People who are important to you may be unable to come due to health, work commitments or cost (often resorts will offer complimentary rooms if a certain number of guests attend – this could be used to help out those who have a cost concern.) Also, a number of resorts have the capability of broadcasting the wedding live on the internet. Finally, the couple can choose to have a small reception at home – often a barbecue in the backyard to invite those who were unable to attend to pass on their best wishes.)
  2. Some destinations have strict conditions under which a legal ceremony can be performed – like how long you have been in the country and blood testing at destination. If the legal language of the country is not English, for example, certain documents may have to be translated and notarized. However many couples choose to have a symbolic or vow-renewal ceremony at destination and a small legal ceremony back home.
  3. Privacy can be an issue especially with a beach wedding, though resort staff will usually do their best to keep casual onlookers away from the ceremony.
  4. Destination weddings that are advertised as “free” are usually very basic but there will be the option to add other things at additional cost such as flowers, private reception, music, champagne reception, photo package, etc.
  5. Be aware of the fact that the resort may have other weddings scheduled around your wedding, especially during the popular months of March, April and May.
  6. If you are very “hands-on” in your need for wedding planning, recognize that long-distance planning sometimes is not as efficient as you would like it to be.

AlmonTravel has helped more than 130 couples from across Canada to achieve their dreams with a destination wedding in the Caribbean area. Call Danny at 1-855-902-4937 or [email protected] for more information.

China Land Tour/River Cruise

The Land of Silk and Jade…
China, as a tourism destination, is being developed quickly with reasonably priced packages, even from the east coast of Canada. Although there are a variety of tour packages available, one of the most popular, offered by most major tour operators, includes either a start or finish in Beijing with a Yangtze river cruise included. 

A flight from the East Coast should be planned for a stop in Vancouver for a break in a flight that totals about 16 1/2 hours from Halifax to Beijing. However, we stopped in Toronto and then took a nonstop flight to Beijing: about 14 1/2 hours in the air. I was surprised however, because the Air Canada flight offered quite a variety of movies — I don’t think I have ever watched as many movies in a row! But it made the time pass quite quickly.

I was familiar with several well-known European cruise companies that offer a China itinerary. However I discovered Chinapac and, because they were offering a phenomenal deal for the date that we travel (end of October to mid-November, which, by the way, turned out to be about the best time that one could pick to visit China), I investigated carefully and then booked our trip with them.

Our first days in Beijing, we stayed in a five-star hotel (the hotels in following cities could best be described as progressively even better than the first hotel we experienced!) In Beijing, we visited Tian An Men Square and the Forbidden City, learning many fascinating facts about both (did you know that the brick courtyards have 15 levels of bricks, crisscrossing each other so that no one could tunnel underground and attack from below?)

One day was devoted to a trip to the Great Wall which was a highlight to the entire trip! It was a surprising experience and I don’t envy the Chinese soldiers who would have had to patrol this wall during rain, snow or freezing temperatures as the steps are uneven and, because the wall contours the terrain, one has to be in pretty good shape to be able to walk any length of the wall! The watchtowers, placed about an arrow’s flight distance from one another made for a magnificent scene.

A day later, we boarded the five-star Yangtze cruise ship, chosen by Chinese public officials over any other cruise line, not only for its luxury, and its private balconies, but also for the fact that it had bulletproof windows (just recently removed) and doors! 

For three days, we moved along the Yangtze River taking in such sites as the Three Gorges Dam, the three gorges themselves and a visit to Fengdu to see the ghost city.

We then spent two days in Xian, visiting the Old City Wall in the evening — quite a beautiful sight as it was all lit up, including similar guard stations to the Great Wall.

We visited the terra-cotta warriors museum for much of the next day — a particular thrill for me! Three separate buildings filled with digs at various levels of completion. We were fortunate enough to get our pictures taken with the farmer who had discovered the terra-cotta warriors. We were informed that there was another mound about half a kilometer away, which archaeologists have determined to be the actual burial mound for the Emperor responsible for the terra-cotta warriors. 

That night we took in one of about four high quality shows we had the opportunity to attend throughout the trip — this one called the Tang Dynasty dinner show. It was a superb, colorful musical, accompanied by a delectable dumpling dinner.

The next day, we visited the city of Suzhou, often compared to Venice for the number of canals that pass through the city. We enjoyed a “gondola” ride through a canal and viewed houses that were built 1000 years ago, bordering, and even hanging out over the canals! We had an opportunity to walk beside the canal, stopping in to a little shop to experience some home baked food and refreshment. It was a lovely experience.

The last three days were spent in Shanghai, where we visited a number of historic sites but were also given a fair bit of free time to shop and to do personal sightseeing.

The success of a tour such as this largely depends upon the tour guide who organizes everything: from meeting us at the airport when we arrive, to ensuring that all tours run properly, including bus transportation meeting us the minute we finished an excursion. I must say that we were pampered from start to finish by a young, well-educated and well- spoken Chinese lady, who made every effort to ensure that our trip could not be better. I was very impressed.

While shopping, I learned that bargaining was an important part of determining a price. At Xian, I was approached to purchase terra-cotta replicas from one of the many independent sellers that frequent the area. I had been told that I probably should buy the replicas from the museum itself: better quality and supporting the museum. However when I saw the quality of the replicas and the price that the museum was charging, I decided no, but instead allowed one of the outside sellers to approach me and bargained with him to get what seemed to be very similar quality replicas for about 1/20 of the museum price!

In both Shanghai and Beijing, there were areas that were devoted to selling “knockoffs”– as many as 100 stores in a shopping center that offered very low prices for items that looked identical to their real-name counterparts. A number of fellow travelers had a great time shopping.

In many of the stops that we made at different cities, we were taken on tours such as a silk factory, an embroidery factory, a ceramic factory, amongst others. There was an opportunity to purchase right from the factory at excellent prices and have them shipped back home. Several of our fellow travelers took advantage of this.

As far as meals were concerned, with the exception of included breakfast each day, which usually offered a variety of breakfast menus, from North American fare to various Asian breakfast options, all the meals were Chinese food which I always enjoyed… but at times I longed for a North American-style steak! 

Our trip back to Canada was delayed slightly by a visit to Ho Chi Min city where our son was teaching English – he arranged our stay at a boarding house room which allowed us to experience the “real life” of Vietnamese citizens.

Our trip back home was uneventful, though jet lag took its toll over the next week or so.